The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Henry County Sheriff’s Department investigation moves ahead with another guilty plea!

Far reaching charges of racketeering, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, money laundering, drug distribution and firearms offenses rain down on Henry County Sheriff’s Department!

Sloppy management or culture of corruption in law enforcement agency?

Crooks impersonating law enforcement?

Poor Henry County. They sure have had their share of set backs and embarrassments over the years.

In 2002, their then highly respected County Administrator Sid Clower got caught with his hand in the “cookie jar” and made off with whole truck load of public funds to help defray the costs of… how shall we say it…“lifestyle choices” that he had become accustomed to. Roughly $750,000 of public funds had been frittered away before County officials woke up and took notice that something might be wrong.

Now, just this past week, Ex-Henry County Sheriff Deputy Cornelia Bryant Cox admitted her responsibility in to charges that she lied to investigators about stealing “evidence” from the Henry County Sheriff’s Office. The evidence was $500 in cold cash! Of course this seems like small potatoes compared to the ex-County Administrator.

So what? Small potatoes indeed.

Retired Deputy Cox’s digression would not seem so bad if she was a lone rogue Deputy in an otherwise pristine law enforcement agency who might be unfairly giving all the other good Deputies a bad rap.

But alas, that isn’t the case. Oh no, that Deputy Cox is not alone. In fact she is far, far from being alone.

Yesterday, four more individuals plead guilty, including two former law enforcement personnel: former Captain James Keaton and former Vice Officer Travis Wilkins. The other two had no employment connection with the Sheriff’s office.

All totaled, retired Deputy Cox is just one of 20 other people, including an incredible 13 current and former deputies who were indicted as a result of an ongoing investigation of official misconduct in the Henry County Sheriff’s Department dating to at least 1998, including racketeering, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, money laundering, drug distribution and various firearms offenses.

Worst of all, the “top dog” himself, the High Sheriff of Henry County, H. Franklin Cassell is among the list of those indicted and awaiting his day in Court.

The recent FBI press release on this shocking story can be seen at this link.

What makes this story scary and unusual is the fact that it involves a significant law enforcement agency, it involves an on-going criminal enterprise, it involves many specific crimes over many years… at least back to 1998… and most shocking of all… it involves so many law enforcement officials of ranking from ordinary Deputies to the High Sheriff himself.

This case disgraces the uniform that was so proudly warn by Deputy Barney Fife!!!

But seriously folks, this case prompts observers to ask some burning questions.

How is it possible that this on-going criminal enterprise continued for such a long time with no one noticing? Since 1998 at least!

How is it possible that so many law enforcement officials, who are sworn to protect and serve the public safety could be drawn into this on-going criminal enterprise.

Why didn't someone drop the dime?

With so many law enforcement officials involved in the scams directly, who else knew that this was going on?

Who else suspected trouble but chose to turn away and do nothing?

Was this merely an unfortunate coincidence that so many corruptible personalities just happened to converge in the Henry County Sheriff’s Department?

Or is this a case of a festering culture of corruption that sent the wrong message that law enforcement officials were exempt from the laws that the rest of us are expected to follow?

This case is a long way from final resolution. It may take years. In the end, many of these burning questions will likely still lack satisfactory answers.

But the Iconoclast predicts that complete investigation will reveal that there were in the past abundant warning signs that were ignored, perhaps by good people who just didn’t care enough to do the right thing and the right time.

We will continue to watch this interesting case study of the culture of official corruption.

Note: The Iconoclast hastens to add that the Henry County Sheriff's Department is a fairly sizable law enforcement organization. Unquestionably there are innocent parties within that organization who bear no responsibility for this alleged wrong doing and are unfairly suffering the suspicion and distrust that this case has caused. It will be years before the damage is corrected. We extend our sympathies to those innocent parties. Those who may not have clean hands know who they are!


  • At 2/01/2007 9:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If Barney were in charge, he would have nipped it in the bud.

  • At 2/01/2007 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    wow, the County Administrar bilked the County for 750grrr before anyone else noticed? Hello?

    For some reason, why do small county Sheriffs seem to be extremely prone to corruption? Boss Hogg syndrome?

    This story continues to amaze me...

  • At 2/02/2007 8:29 AM, Anonymous still mad as hell said…

    You got your facts wrong.

    By the time it was over, former Henry County Administrator Sid Clower, had ripped us off for at least $818,000, the amount that was provable. At least! But who really knows?

    Before they found Sid hiding in the woods with a loaded pistol threatening to kill himself, he was a "hot property" and "big shot" here in Henry. He had a reputation as a hard charging guy who got results even if he had to take chances. Whatever, few people would openly question Sid. No telling what other stuff happened.

    But you are right about one thing. Others knew what was going on. His adulturous girl friend who had his illegitimate child also worked for us taxpayers and she sure as hell had a good idea of what was going on and a better reason to keep her mouth shut at least while good times were rolling.

    Of course, for most of us here in Henry, the good times don't roll so much any more. I would have hoped that the county would have learned its lesson by now. But what can I say.

  • At 2/04/2007 1:33 AM, Blogger TOR Hershman said…

    All I can iz


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